Russia sets tougher penalties for trafficking endangered animals

August 12, 2013
Russia has increased penalties for trafficking endangered species products like those from Amur tigers like this one. Credit: Vladimir Filonov/WWF-Canon

Russia's State Duma has approved legislative amendments that mean tougher punishments for poaching and trafficking of rare species will come into force. The draft law was submitted by President Putin in March 2013 following a meeting with WWF Russia CEO, Dr. Igor Chestin in August 2012.

It means anyone found smuggling "endangered species" can be prosecuted under criminal law. Under previous legislation, only those caught smuggling rare animals worth more than 1 million roubles (US$30,000) could be prosecuted under criminal law—but Russian legislation had no means to determine the value of animals in , making it almost impossible to initiate a criminal investigation.

However, this March, the government increased the compensation due from anyone convicted of killing or taking from the and leopards and other endangered species, including certain birds of prey, to RUB1.1 million (US$35,000), a move that has now been endorsed through a new bill by the State Duma.

"The new bill establishes a mechanism to close the existing loophole in Russian legislation," said Chestin. "Now, regardless of the value or volume of the goods, any smuggler caught with parts of a tiger or other valuable species will be prosecuted under criminal law and potentially face far more serious consequences. We've been working on this for almost 15 years and finally, with support of the president and his chief of staff, Sergey Ivanov, the law is in place."

Species classified as "endangered" include the Amur tiger, Amur leopard, polar bear and .

This Amur leopard skin was discovered in a car in Russia. Credit: WWF-Russia / S. Aramilev

In 2012, a review of Russian wildlife legislation carried out by TRAFFIC and WWF proposed amendments to Russian federal law that would tighten the penalties for and trafficking of and their derivatives and highlighted the loophole that had allowed and traffickers to get away with insignificant fines.

"While this latest improvement to Russian legislation is warmly welcomed, its enforcement becomes of utmost importance," said TRAFFIC's Alexey Vaisman, who helped in the legislative review.

"The number of rangers and game inspectors has fallen dramatically in recent years and needs to be increased, and while we can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, institutional support is needed to see the light of day."

Explore further: Never before seen Russian snow leopards caught on camera

Related Stories

Never before seen Russian snow leopards caught on camera

December 1, 2011

New WWF camera traps have captured the images of two rare snow leopards in Russia. The photographs  are the first ever taken of snow leopards in Russia's Altai mountains.  WWF camera traps last month also captured ...

First camera trap photos of rare leopard in China

April 25, 2012

The first-known camera trap photos of an Amur leopard in China have recently been taken by protected area staff in Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in Jilin Province according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. ...

Russian forests and tigers left floored by illegal logging

April 17, 2013

The forests of the Russian Far East are being pushed to the brink of destruction due to pervasive, large-scale illegal logging, largely to supply Chinese furniture and flooring manufacturers, according to a new report by ...

Togo police seize 700 kilos of ivory

August 9, 2013

Police in Togo have seized 700 kilogrammes (1,540 pounds) of ivory in the capital city of Lome, the government told AFP on Thursday.

Recommended for you

Winter season reverses outcome of fruit fly reproduction

November 24, 2015

Male fruit flies could find their chances of fathering offspring radically reduced if they are last in the queue to mate with promiscuous females before winter arrives, according to new University of Liverpool research.

New insight into leaf shape diversity

November 24, 2015

Many of us probably remember the punnett squares by which we were introduced to the idea of genetic inheritance in school: a dominant allele in each of my brown-eyed parents hides a recessive allele that explains my blue ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.